COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.— A former longtime advisor to President Barack Obama predicted Wednesday that the employer mandate — a key piece of Obamacare — will not survive.
It was among several predictions Robert Gibbs, former White House press secretary, had for the future of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in a speech at the 2014 Benefits Selling Expo.
“I don’t think the employer mandate will go into effect. It’s a small part of the law. I think it will be one of the first things to go,” he said to a notably surprised audience.
The employer mandate has been delayed twice, he noted. The vast majority of employers with 100 or more employees offer health insurance, and there aren’t many employers who fall into the mandate window, he said.
Killing the employer mandate would be one way to improve the law — and there are a handful of other “common sense” improvements needed as well, he said.
Others include better outreach ahead of next year’s enrollment — educating people about the law’s deadlines, penalties and subsidies; improved technology; and greater incentives, besides not having to pay a low penalty, to young people so they will enroll in health coverage.
And, most importantly, Gibbs said “health care has to add an additional layer of coverage cheaper than the plans already offered.”
In his hourlong speech — which included questions and answers — Gibbs admitted to questioning whether the individual mandate as part of the law was the way to go; being embarrassed and critical over the “truly horrible” exchange rollout last fall; and cringing when former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi infamously quipped “we have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it.”
Despite the tough road for PPACA, Gibbs remained adamant health reform “had to be done” and needs to forge ahead.
“The president had what I thought was several off-ramps or exits … to move on (with the law.) But he never wavered in what he wanted to do. That’s because of one simple reason: He felt we had no other choice but to act.”